SELECTED OVERVIEW OF PRESENTERS FROM THE CLARITY 2016 CONFERENCE
I recently attended my first Plain Language conference – the Clarity International conference in Wellington NZ. Of course the speakers at the Clarity 2016 conference were the key drawcard and highlight.
In this the third edition, I run through presentations from:
- Sarah McCoubrey, Calibrate Solutions
- Cushla Schofield, Senior legal counsel ANZ
- Robert Hulls, former Attorney-General of Victoria (AU)
- Patrick Wilson, Accident Compensation Corporation NZ
If you are after an impression of the conference as a whole, check out this post: My First Plain Language Conference.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘OVERVIEW’?
Below I quickly run through a selection of the presentations and speed learning sessions I attended and give you:
- Points to live by: Key takeaways for each preso which really intrigued or impacted on me.
- Link it up: Contact points for each speaker and references to related material.
Sarah McCoubrey, Calibrate Solutions
Sarah is an excellent story teller. Sarah was able to paint a picture of a collaborative approach to law using her own father’s experience with lawyers and legal problems.
Sarah touched on the perceived stigma of visiting a lawyer, an aspect of the law I had never considered. For some reason, it’s okay to see a doctor for help but not a lawyer? Sarah feels this could be connected to the way TV shows explain legal issues as people making poor decisions or mistakes.
People talk about conflict with shame and embarrassment, as if it is bad or foolish to have conflict. Sarah proposed that conflict is normal. We should stop judging and feeling judged about having or being in conflict.
I was really taken with Sarah’s comparison of the legal sector to the healthcare and financial sectors which are strongly moving towards patient centred care. Apps for banking are simple. Health information must be presented clearly and simply.
Preventative lawyering is about becoming client-centred. A preventative lawyer becomes a long term trusted professional not a reactive conflict based professional. Preventative lawyers ask questions… they make sure your will is up to date.
Points to live by
- Often a lawyer’s process expertise (e.g. how long something will take, what the steps are) is more important than legal expertise
- Lawyers can make a dramatic contribution to achieving equal justice by their daily promotion of general legal health.
- What will make the client happy? Might not be a legal issue to resolve first!
- It’s okay to try things, don’t be too scared to be part of a culture change
- Lawyers should encourage the growing knowledge and sophistication of their clients …they should see themselves as facilitators of better results and happier lives – Jordon Furlong
Link it up
Cushla Schofield, Senior legal counsel ANZ
Taming the sharks
Cushla was a Finalist in the 2015 Plain English Awards for Plain English Champion – Best Individual or Team, and her passion for Plain English really came through her presentation.
Cushla spoke about work she has done in an area I feel very strongly about – product information for consumers. In the past consumer laws have been focused on disclosing information to customers. The thinking has been that the more information someone has, the better decisions they will make.
This has left consumer organisations with large regulatory burden to produce information which consumers rarely look at or read.
As Cushla rightly points out, it just doesn’t work to just give customers more information.
ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investment Commission) has realised this. ASIC stated that companies providing consumers with information ‘should explain the practical implications of what is being offered, rather than presenting a mass of legal and financial details’.
Cushla’s slides were modern and well thought out. I especially enjoyed her encouragement to lawyers to Be Brave when walking the path to simplify information for consumers (because it’s not easy and ‘the sharks’ will push back).
Points to live by….
- Be brave!
- Quality information is better than more information
- Look to behavioural economics when drafting – What does a customer think about when making a decision?
- The time is now, get in front of the legislation. Laws are inevitably coming to force organisations to be clear
Link it up…
Patrick Wilson, Accident Compensation Corporation NZ
Clarifying board papers
Patrick Wilson provided important reminders for what Boards want to see in reports and submissions for board decision making.
Patrick had some interesting approaches to tackling what sounds like a demanding amount of reading for the ACC NZ Board.
Patrick implemented a monthly Board Writer’s Group. Each month, those writing something for the Board would bring it along, everyone has 5 minutes to read the paper, then everyone has five minutes to discuss the paper. During this time, the paper writer cannot speak. Patrick outlined that this has had real benefits to improve the knowledge within the Commission on how to structure information for the Board and ensure writing stays on point.
Points to live by…
- Bring important info forward (important but often forgotten)
- Frame your board papers by focusing on the purpose:
- What is this paper about?
- How does it relate to what the board does? Relate the paper to the Board’s strategy
- What do you want the Board to do? Be clear
Link it up
Robert Hulls, former Victorian Attorney-General
Rob Hulls is a former Victorian attorney-general and deputy Labor premier.
Rob is extremely passionate about justice issues. Before you start wondering whether a privileged white male can speak about diversity and equality issues with any authority, when he was AG, Rob prompted major changes to Victoria’s legal system including establishing the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, setting up specialist courts for vulnerable groups and continues to champion fairer legal systems.
Rob provided insights on the importance of considering how you present legal information to people. Merely being clear and direct is not always enough. Rob’s message was along similar lines to Cushla’s presentation around framing information for consumers.
At times, you need to grab your listener’s attention quite deliberately to ensure legal information is not just clear but also understood.
Even something simple like saying ‘This is important’ before giving a serious of instructions will assist those who interact with the courts to more fully understand what is a confusing, overwhelming and daunting process.
‘Here is a list of instructions, if you do not do all the things on this checklist, you will have a default judgment issued against you. This means XYZ’
Overall the presentation was a great reminder that spoken information is not just about what is said but about the way it’s said.
Points to live by…
- Justice should be solutions focused
- Giving out a list of information can reduce cognitive burden
- Repeat information by paraphrasing often with simple language.
Link it up…
- Rob’s Clarity Presentation
- Rob on Twitter
- The Centre for Innovative Justice (Rob was its inaugural Director in 2012)
- Judicial College of Victoria
- Justinian featurette on Rob
» Photos from the conference by Alan Raga Photography
» Conference website, including videos of all main speaker presentations
» PLAIN Conference Austria 2017